Many who follow and read the blog read my post on the Teanaway River last season. That post was read more than any other blog I have written to date. Read several hundred times, I was contacted by multiple individuals and organizations about that post. As the rain is pouring and I couldn’t stand to be in the house for the entirety of another day, I took the dog and headed up into the woods and the banks of the Teanaway River today.
The river is a torrent. Angry and full of churning green water. It has swept trees and boulders along its bed with sheer force as it once again has is thirst quenched by the heavy mountain snows mother nature blessed us with this winter. The headwaters of the river are still locked away by the snow. Several feet are still on the ground, even the lowlands where just before the forest takes hold of the land are filled with snow. I haven’t seen the river or the forest surrounding it like this in several years. The Teanaway seem like her old self again, much like her older and larger sister the Yakima.
The one thing that I noticed and got me thinking about the effects of the drought last year, was the fact that the entire watershed is saturated with water right now. There is so much water that the rain and snow has no where to melt and it is pooling up in low spots and flowing into the river bringing mud, debris, and other organic matter into the system. While there is a concern of farmlands leeching nitrates and what not into the system, the thing I see that is a benefit, is there is a ton of organic material being filtered through the system. There is still more to come as only a fraction of the snow has melted and we are now well into the month of March. All that runoff is loading the system with nutrients that will only help the river recover in the following seasons. The drought dried up the river in many places and the previous seasons were not friendly to the river either. Finally it seems that the river is getting a much needed recharge.
I only was able to fish the Teanaway twice last season before it closed due to the drought. I am very much looking forward to slinging flies with my 3 WT fiberglass this season. The Teanaway was a river that I used to fish regularly. Especially before I purchased my boat. I would wet wade to my hearts content hiking along the banks of the river from top to bottom in the summer. While the Yakima was big and swollen for summer irrigation and filled with boats and floaters the Teanaway gave me a place of solitude…and a place to chase cutthroat.
I first fell in love with Cutthroat on the Teanaway River. I caught many over the years, and hiked high into the creeks and borders of the closed waters in search of wild and strange places and the trout that resided within them. There was a time when rather large cutthroat used to be a regular surprise on the Teanaway. I remember learning where the larger specimens would hide out. The jog jams, overhangs, snags, stumps, boulder gardens, that bordered the larger rifles and runs were always a good place to look for a bigger trout. The typical trout was hand sized, with a few pushing around 12 inches. But the 14 and 16 inch cutthroat were always a welcome quarry. I got really good at finding them. I began learning areas where they would frequent, pools that held fish I came to catch and release multiple times. There were even times I was greeted by larger cutthroat that typically were quick to head for log jams and snap off before a proper handshake. All fish are great no matter the size, but when you are fishing a small river can catching tons of small trout and suddenly a larger fish breaks up the day with a surprise run or jump on a light wt rod it can really make the day!
The larger fish were less frequent after a few seasons, and the trout seemed to become less and less throughout the entire system. The bulltrout I used to see, and the few that were hooked into and gently released when enjoying the action of cutthroat chasing streamers, were all but gone. The culmination of this was the drought in 2015. The river was strangled and scorched, leaving only a few surviving trout in the upper reaches, while the lower end of the river become over 70 degrees and less than 10 cfs in flow. Many of the trout died, others were able to get down stream and seek refuge in the Yakima. Now with the runoff I hope that the fish return and the Teanaway begins to refill with life.
I will be there, fishing, conserving, and protecting the Teanaway River. I spent some time this winter writing a grant proposal to Trout Unlimited’s Embrace a Stream Program as Conservation Chair for the Yakima River Headwaters Chapter 090 and we were successful in securing the grant. The money will be used to start our first conservation project in a 10 year commitment to the Teanaway River. Headwaters Matter and I didn’t get my Headwaters Hero title for nothing. I invite all who are interested in helping make the Teanaway better than what it once was, to come to our local chapter meeting. The next one is in Ellensburg at the Palace Cafe on March 16th at 7. We will be discussing our Water Temperature Monitoring Project and planning work days for the year. Hope to see you there and on the Teanaway River.
I forgot how a normal spring is supposed to go. Sitting at home the past two days has got me down. I wanna be outside, slinging flies, rowing seams, and giving trout handshakes. But the river is blown, and its raining, with more to come. It sucks…but then I reflect back on previous years before things started getting progressively worse each winter and our snow pack dwindled up to last years epic and craptastic drought.
Spring on the Yak, at least according to my journals and my time on the river for the past 11 seasons, is always a crap shoot. Typically this river doesn’t really start picking up until Mother’s Day. At least in the lower end. The upper tends to have better mayfly water, and if you dig swinging things like streamers and wet flies the upper can be a great place to spend the spring season. It also has trout eating out of fast water riffles and up along big log jams and boulder fields, and just a lot more than the banks and seams of the LC. A place where trout act a little more trouty and the menu tends to be more varied. It typically blows out a lot. But the areas above the Teanaway are rather consistent and until irrigation kicks up they fish really well, albeit off color 3 days of the week due to the rains. Once irrigation comes in it can be a little funky for a bit but once its consistent the river becomes a paradise for those who like a challenge and the opportunity to fish lots of different flies and use a myriad of techniques and water reading skills.
Referencing my journals I found that the spring was always filled with great dry fly days in March and April, but on an average week the river would be out of shape 3 to 4 days. Not bad even for those of us that want to be out there 6-7 days a week. I have lots of entries of examining bugs when the river would blow and then tying flies to match. That is what I remember most about a normal spring on the Yakima. Having down days that literally made me ache to not be out and patiently…anxiously watching the rain outside while I tie flies in preparation. I have spent the off days or river blown days tying lately and there is a nice rhythm to it now. Tie…fish…tie…fish.
I have promised myself that I would not buy flies that I could tie easily, and have been lucky to be able to partner with Catch Fly Fishing for my mass produced flies. That being said, I still tie over half of my flies for my trips. I typically take my flies back from my clients at the end of the day unless they stuck a monster on the fly and then I make them keep it. But flies are expensive even for guides. Especially if you buy from shops as a guide. Unlike other states guide discounts are kind of a joke around here. I get better discounts in Montana and Idaho shops than I do in Washington. Makes me not want to support local shops. But the relationship of shops and guides, and how I feel guides should be thought of is a whole other blog. But I tie flies, which is becoming less and less of a thing I fear, especially among younger and newer anglers. We have shops not offering tying material or classes, which cuts out an entire part of fly fishing, the flies, and in turn entomology.
You need to know what flies mimic what and when to use them. That comes from learning how to tie and what the fly represents. Even if you don’t ever become a big tier I encourage anglers to try it or take a class. At the very least take an entomology course which should touch on the flies that should be used. When there are 5 different bugs hatching throughout the day, a good angler knows what flies to use and when, a good guide better know, and then have a few tricks up their sleeve as well. I explain to my anglers that a lot of my flies are tied with a specific method and time to fish them. I have a lot of success in the fringe times of the hatch. Post and pre hatch, emergers and wet flies. Being able to break down a hatch, and know when and what patterns to tie on, can turn a 10 fish day into a 40 fish day. Anyone can cast at a rising fish and have a high chance of success, but what about the fish that aren’t rising yet, the ones that key on to specific parts of the hatch, only eating emergers, or nymphs, or the big pigs that only eat the spent morsels that pile up in eddies? It happens. Maybe not on a drought year like last but lately the fishing has been pretty damn good with more than a dozen fish hitting flies, that activity only gets better as we get further into the season.
I have already had success this spring switching from the standard worm and throwing the midge, finding pods of fish chowing on the little bastards. Throw a worm through the same spot….nothing. I meet anglers riverside all the time that ask me how the fishing is for me. 80% of the time I am having a better day, and that is mostly related to my ability to break down the day and fish it according to how the bugs and trout are interacting with each other. It stems from tying. I wouldn’t know that an unweighted sparkle pupa 18 inches below a little yarn can literally produce a fish every cast if I hadn’t learned to tie them, it gave me the how, when, and why to using the fly.
I have journal entries from previous March Brown and PMD hatches where fishing was ridiculous, fishing nymphs pre hatch, emergers for the 20 minutes before the burst, dries during the peak, switch to spent males or wet flies post hatch. That all happens before 11 am some times. There is enough opportunity within that time to have amazing fishing. I mean who doesn’t want 10-30 fish before lunch? The Yak used to be like that, and it looks as though it may be like that again for the next few seasons. I never had an issue with knowing what flies to use when I started out as I started tying before I held a fly rod. But I understand how anglers can get frustrated when they see fish eating but can’t figure out the right bug. That’s where knowing how to tie and what flies represent what bugs comes into play. It can get even more in depth as I now tie specific dries for slow water, fast water, nymphs with different weights, different bodies, to do certain things in the water column to better represent the natural and in theory and reality, catch more trout.
Tying also helps soothe my anxiety, makes me focus, saves me money, prepares me for trips and days on the river, and is a facet of fly fishing that I feel is lost with mass production flies and less younger tiers. There used be a time in fly fishing history where the only way you could get flies was to either tie them yourself, or buy them from a guide or trouty person that did. Shops used to stock flies from the local tiers, its a time I am nostalgic for, I wish more of our local shops supported the local artists and tiers that make this sport unique.
So if you find yourself staring out the window at the rain depressed that your not getting your rod bent. Or if you are looking at the forecast in disgust and resentment, or if you are watching YouTube vids of others catching fish, or maybe you are just trying not to think about fishing and watch zombie movies and cartoons but really you just want to be fishing….stop it…grab a vise, some feathers a little thread, some fur, hair, beads, hell whatever you want, and tie up some flies. No one should ever have to pay $2.00 for a Pat’s Stone. They have three parts, Weight, Chenille, and Rubber Legs. They take less than 3 minutes to tie with a little practice. When you buy a half dozen of those and some san juans you are dropping $20-$30 bucks on flies that literally could have taken an hour to tie at home. The initial investment in tying equipment and materials is less than buying a rod. That money you save can go into a new rod fund, or a new vest, hat, pack, hell I save mine up for material because I can’t help myself. $30 bucks in material goes a long way.
So there is my ploy to get more people tying. Its fun, its better than spending an hour watching another episode of something, and it might help make some other aspects of this sport easier to understand. Now go tie. It’s still raining and the river is still blown.
A few riverside conversations over the past week or so have come up concerning fly fishing and competition. This blog may offend a few anglers out there but its a blog, I have my opinions on the sport and art of fly fishing and I feel strongly that many things that make this activity unique and special are lost when competition is thrown in the mix. Competition is human nature. Part of what I love about fly fishing is the absence of human and the presence of nature. Competition is also rampant in America and is not always the best thing. Competition brings out many things that quite frankly…don’t belong in fly fishing.
EGO…that’s the big and most important one. Ego has no place in nature, fish have no ego. Ego is not to be confused with confidence and attitude, which are both encouraged and both of which are backed up by skill and experience. No…ego is a human thing, and Ego serves little purpose in fly fishing. Ego just makes you an asshat…ya…I said. Wow, you caught, 40 fish….you caught the biggest fish…you put more time on the water than I did…in reality…the only person who cares….is you…fish don’t know the difference between anglers. If you’ve caught the biggest fish, or the most, or whatever, the fish…doesn’t give two shits. If you get a text from an angler buddy and the first thought in your mind is…man I don’t wanna fish with that dude…its probably because of their ego. Don’t be that angler…I don’t fish with them, and I don’t do repeat trips with them when I get one out of the blue in my boat.
Which brings us to fish. Fly fishing at its core is about the fish. Like all fishing. But unlike other forms or ways of angling for fish, fly fishing has a different connection to the fish. When concerning trout (which is the majority of the fly fishing community) using flies to mimic the natural world to trick a trout that is otherwise unaware of the human presence, is very unique compared to running a lure through the water and hoping for a response from the fish. Fly fishing is more connected to the natural world in which the trout or fish is. And if you can’t understand the difference between fly fishing and other forms of angling then you aren’t a fly angler, and this conversation doesn’t pertain to you.
Now, I love to show off my fish. But there came a time in my fly angling when I realized that all these pictures of me holding trout were not really about the trout…they were about me. Look what I did! Look what I conquered! Me me me, I did it, I…I…you get it. I was taking pictures of me with these fish, to prove I actually caught them…there’s that pesky ego, to show other anglers that I am the one who conquered or bested this fish…hmmm…ego again. I started realizing that I had turned into an asshat. Now you see fish used to sell products. We pimp out our fish in order to sell more hats, more trips, more flies, everything…when the trout really isn’t what we are selling. We are selling the selfie, the hero shot, the cliche marketing picture that you can post on FB or instagram in order to make ourselves or our product more popular in order to make more money, or be more liked, or to make people envious of us, ego…stroke it. And the industry and community is to blame for it too. There was a time that fly shop staff said the only way they would believe me is if I took a picture…double asshats. Those who lie about fishing stories are just stroking their ego some more. Stop it…that kind of thing should be done in the privacy of ones home.
Fish don’t care about any of that and they ain’t seeing any return on those photos being posted. And stroking ego with fish is just weird and a little strange, they didn’t consent, they are tired from fighting to get a hook out of their mouth, they aren’t in the state of mind to defend themselves against over handling, and the ones that do decide they want nothing to do with an angler typically are uncooperative or just break you off and give you the finger. We take this wild animal, and we make it something human, we turn it into a tool to better our image or the image of our product. At that point they aren’t trout or fish anymore. They are just a piece of jewelry. They have become a thing, an object, and instead of being the focus of our pursuit to trick fish with flies, we have shifted all that focus onto the angler. The term Trout Porn becomes a very different thing when you think a little past the hero shot or fish selfie. We are literally taking the one thing we love to chase and catch…the fish, and turning it into an ego stroking, merchandise pimping whore. I’m guilty of it, I still do it…but I acknowledge it and understand that it is a part of business…but where does it stop? Where do I personally as an angler draw the line?
This brings me to competition. Two fly events, fly fishing competitions, measuring fish, weighing fish, point systems on fish…what a bunch of malarkey. All we are doing at that point is playing “Mine’s Bigger than Yours.” It’s childish and strange that we have to make something like fly fishing a competition. We have baseball, football, soccer, UFC, the GOP debates to entertain and give us competition…why do we have to bastardize fly fishing with competition? Fly fishing and fishing in general is about fun, but why do we have to compete in order to have fun? That being said, I think testing an anglers skills…such as casting competitions, target competitions, and the like are something that should be encouraged. Those skills translate to the river and if you can cast at targets accurately at 90 feet I have no doubt that when a situation with a large fish presents itself, you’ll have a higher chance of success against that fish. If you need to stroke your ego, do it yourself, not with a fish. I have more respect for an angler that is also a casting champion, than an angler who catches big fish and has lots of pictures.
Of course, as many anglers know, the best cast, the best rod, the best fly, doesn’t always catch the best fish. I have had anglers that never even held a fly rod an hour before, hook into life changing fish and successfully be introduced to that fish with a nice handshake from the fish as it is released. Isn’t that what this fly fishing thing is about? Catching fish? Having fun, learning the skills to catch more fish, meeting fish, testing an anglers skills against nature…isn’t that enough competition? Is that not, the most epic and legendary of competitions? Human against Nature. Angler vs Trout, Predator vs Alien, DeCaprio vs The Academy, oh…wait…no one more, Trump vs Twitter…okay I’m done.
I find it odd that it isn’t enough. Fish have no competition, except to survive, so when we use them to make ourselves greater than them, in my opinion, we are losing exactly that essence that makes fly fishing unique and different than other forms of angling. When we have to quantify fly fishing with points, ego stroking photos, or to sell products, are we taking something away from the sport and the fish that we pursue? I leave that question to be answered by the individual. I will tell you that I no longer take fish out of the water for my personal photos. Hell, I rarely take photos of the majority of the fish I catch anymore. I do use photos for selling my business, but I have found a place I am comfortable with when I pimp out fish.
I do occasionally take a photo of a fish out of water with clients. Sometimes the situation doesn’t allow for a quick photo of the fish in the water, or sometimes a quick hold up before release while floating is a better alternative to sliding over to the river edge, keeping the fish in the net and over handling the fish to get a photo. When a fish is hooked I have an internal countdown timer, when I get close to zero, the fish gets put back no matter what, even if we haven’t netted it yet. I break fish off on purpose, I have clients let fish go, my boat my rules. Don’t like it? Hire a guide that is less conservative with how they treat and handle fish. It falls to the angler to decide. And I don’t have to associate myself with those who ‘disrespect’ the fish in my opinion. As a guide I have to find a comfort zone and I do. I have to sell trips, but not at the expense of the one thing I have to keep alive in order to do those trips…the fish. I understand that the industry needs photos of fish and anglers to sell things as well. I tend to look for and support companies that have a happy median between the ego stroke and respect for the fish.
It is the opinion of this angler and guide, that when we make ourselves the focus of this pursuit, and not the fish, we are not anglers anymore. Some may argue that those photos and competitions are about the fish, but when staged photos and competitions are more popular than a natural moment in angling we have a problem. When companies break the law in order to get that one shot in order to sell one more thing, at the expense of the fish…we have a problem. When we have terms like fish porn and trout porn and the literal whoring of fish for our own personal recognition and accolades we are missing out on the point of what it is to be a fly angler.
I do not compete in any aspect of fly fishing; except the competition with the trout and river. I fly fish because without it I wouldn’t be who I am. It is a part of me, the respect and awe I have for fly fishing and the fish that I trick give me a sense of humanity that I haven’t found elsewhere. It is all about the fish for me…and they are revered and respected because being able to trick them and meet them via fly and rod is a special experience that should never be tainted with anything other than the pure moment between nature and human. The only competition you will find me engaging in when it comes to fly fishing: who pays for or drives the shuttle, brings the beer and smoke, who rows first, who’s gonna handle the whitefish, who’s got next, and who picks the tunes. Typically decided upon by a quick game of ro sham bo, the best reach cast, or…dude…you caught two fish, its your turn to row.
Hope to see you riverside. Try stroking the trouts ego.
The season is upon us. I have been riverside the past few days, patiently waiting for the river too ‘turn on’ so to speak. The days are warmer, the trout are waking up, and the spring is moving right along. The river is acting like her normal self, with a tinge of color, some heavier flows, and some persnickety trout.
The conditions are still slow, we are waiting for the water temp to stay above 42 degrees consistently. We are almost there. But there will be runoff to deal with this season, something that has not been as much of an issue the past several years. As I venture out and re-discover the river, I also get to meet the trout.
Last season I met several trout that still haunt me. But there is that one fish, that one trout, that I pitted myself against multiple times last season and came up defeated on every occasion. While I have felt the sting of defeat I also know how to play the long game and be patient. A few years of angling will do that do you, and like I tell all my clients, I develop a special relationship with these trout.
This one fish, is of course a large Cutthroat, and when I say large I mean so large that a picture of it would literally make everyone who has ever fished this river lose their shit. I hooked into this trout three separate times last season, same spot of the river, same trout, no doubt in my mind, every time the two of us faced off, the trout bested me. Once by heading straight for the log jam it calls home, twice by running down river and then back up into the current causing slack and rolling off, and thrice by pulling so hard and going so deep that I was unable to best it and it snapped off on fine tippet. I met this same trout several other times where it would give me the big fat middle finger and only track or look at my fly from the hole in which it resides.
I floated by the trouts lair on Friday, I let my friend take a shot, I was not mentally prepared for such a fish and I figured my only way of ever getting to meet this fish may be if someone else catches it, which I am okay with as an angler. It’s a special trout and it would be a priveledge to introduce an angler to it with my net. This fish deserves respect. So I waited. I floated by the lair on Sunday afternoon with a determination to at least see if the trout was still there. I felt as though it was.
I parked my boat upriver giving the hole a wide berth. The water in the upper river is back to its normal gin clear self and the fish are no less spooky this season. I approached from the side, knowing the trout was more than likely deep in the hole right below the shelf, lazily waiting for food to come to it. The hole is a marvel of natural aquatic engineering. Beavers have caused large root wads and limbs to clog the river in this area. Adjacent to one of these obstructions caused by the waffle tailed fur balls, is a massive hole around 6 feet deep and twice as wide. There is a large shelf where the water is knee deep right below a riffle. The shelf drops into the hole creating the perfect place for a large trout. Cover from above in the depths, food brought down from the riffle, over the shelf, and into the hole, right on top of the trout.
I have never seen this trout eat a dry fly or natural top water insect. Only nymphs. Smart trout. I have watched this fish for minutes eating and feeding, amazing just to see this trout in the wild let alone be able to cast at it. From my position I could not see the fish but I could feel that it was there. I had a stonefly nymph and worm below an indicator. I casted up above the hole into the riffle, mending my line so the bottom fly rode right over the edge of the shelf. Immediately, I saw the trout. It is the same trout that bested me and haunted me all last season there is no doubt.
The immensity of this fish astounds me, it lazily rolled riding the upwelling current from the hole and swiped at the bright fuchsia worm I had tied on the bottom of my rig. My heart jumped into my throat and then sank to my toes. I watched the trout lightly take the fly, only to spit it out as I lifted. I felt the slight tension, like a light kiss on the cheek from a long lost lover, and then the trout settled back into the depths.
I missed my opportunity, I was heartbroken, but I would not have been satisfied catching such a respectable trout on a worm pattern. So I put my rod up, tipped my hat to the trout, and moved on. We met again. After the long winter. And this trout and I have a relationship and the wild creature did not disappoint with how it said hello. I whispered some expletives to myself and the fish as I floated by, just to keep our rivalry going. I will meet this large cutthroat again this season. Maybe it will grace my net with its presence, or completely ruin a clients life by finally being defeated by an angler.
I have come out of hibernation from the winter. I have been driving around, watching the river, paying close attention to the weather, venturing riverside when conditions present themselves, trout season is upon us. Today I took the time to prep for the season. Rods were sent out for repair, insurance renewed, new seats for the boat were ordered, another new axle for the trailer. The boat is getting some much needed TLC, touching up chines, new anchor rope, a good scrubbing, draining the hull, got some water in it this winter.
I have been tying, I have slowed down as we have gotten closer to the spring, my brain and fingers burnt out on tying, my arm yearns to cast hundreds upon hundreds of times. I can feel my back and arm muscles ache and twitch as I prep my body for the season. My sleep schedule has changed so that I wake with the sun. A much needed camping trip will really help reset my internal clock. The first thing I do every morning is check the river flows and water temps while rubbing the sleep away from my eyes. My mind focuses even more than usual as I patiently and anxiously wait…this season is especially exciting. Hatch journals are being perused, fishing logs are being looked through, flies are being organized, leaders being tied, clients being called, deposits being taken, the guide life is in full swing.
Throughout the winter I watched gleefully as the snow piled and pile outside and in the mountains. Feet upon feet of snow, compared to the literal zero feet we got last season. Now the thaw is on, and the entire watershed is swollen. Its such a wonderful sight to see as water of this amount has not been seen in several seasons, last year was just the culmination of four progressively worsening winters. To see my river act like her proper self is a fulfilling thing when I watched as she slowly evaporated away and was a mere trickle, weak and lifeless in places. She is a torrent, almost vindictive and spiteful of her previous self with her runoff flow. Flooding and making her presence known to the valley’s inhabitants with a wrathful current of brown angry water, reminding everyone and everything that this is her valley, her mountains, this is her home. Despite her dams and other man made impediments, she shows us that if she wanted…she could wash everything away and start anew.
The Teanaway is a heartwarming sight. The freestone tributary with its massive, dark, muddy water harboring just as much vengeance in her flow as her bigger sister. The younger sister of the Yakima is the main culprit of the ferociousness of the river. Daring and inviting to the the trout with her flow, I am looking forward to seeing the Teanaway this season. Will those larger cutthroat make their way into the headwaters to bring forth the next generation of these ancient and native fish that I hold so dear? Just to see so much water and snow is such a wonderful sight. It makes the anticipation of the season that much more difficult to battle.
But to see the rivers with so much flow, healthy, brown spring run off flow, makes each day the water recedes that much sweeter, knowing that the trout are sheltered waiting just as I am, and when the river calms, the trout will be hungry and just as angry as she that bares them. Hangry Trout are the best kind. Soon the trout will be active, they have wintered very well, with full bellies and healthy color ready to spawn later this spring they will be a sight to behold this spring. They will have a more normal year, a year where they can have respite, and act like their normal wild selves, not sheltering in the coldest parts of the river, or hiding throughout the day and only coming out at night. No, this season will be such a different experience than last season. I am so looking forward to being re-introduced to these wild fish when their environment acts more natural.
There is nothing quite like a wild trout that is tricked by a fly when it least expects it on a pristine day. Especially when stalking a large wary 2’fer (2 footer) in gin clear water with a 12 foot leader and 15 inches of 5X flouro, with a size 14 dry fly. A good cast, a nice long drift, the trout moving into position….the anticipation of the rise…wait…wait…SET! The tug, the angry surprised pull and headshake of a trout fighting against the invasion into its world. An angler tested, a good net, a welcome moment, a good release, and a proper handshake. With every fly I tied all winter that thought went through my mind. Dozens upon dozens of trout tricked in my head…now its time to chase them for real. Trout season is upon us…and the last bit of anticipation is always the hardest but also the sweetest. So I patiently wait for the river to calm, but she has a lot to be angry about, so I will enjoy seeing her act like her normal self again. She’s almost done…she’ll be more inviting and friendly to the angler again. Then driftboats and rafts will be seen all over town, anglers will venture forth, and the pursuit of trout will be ever present on the homewater.
Hey everyone we’ve got our monthly TU meeting on Wednesday the 17th. We will be talking about trout, and doing some fly tying! I’ll be there showing off some gnarly patterns! Bring your vise and come hang out and tie some flies while the river is blown.
Meeting is Wednesday the 17th at 7:00 pm at the Palace Cafe in Ellensburg. Link below.
There aren’t many patterns of mine that I would say work better than just about any other for a particular hatch or insect.
But Skwalla McTwitchy aka The Bacon-Nater when not tied for a specific bug, is one of those patterns. The recipe is at the end.
This pattern is based on a simple Stimi based dry tied Parachute Style. But the poly yarn underwing holds floatant very well, the moose hair wing floats as good as foam without the non natural look of foam.
The hi via parachute is over hackled for more floatation as well. The body can be tied in just about any color or dubbin type you can think of. I like full ice dub bodies for summer time in multiple colors, and I like hares ear ice dub blends when I’m going for more specific colors to match a hatch. I also tie them with no flash or ice dub for when conditions and trout call for subtle flies.
The legs are whatever strips of rubber you have lying around. I tie the body like I would a Pats Stone. The legs are the important part. This pattern is for stoneflies and grasshoppers. But mainly stoneflies. Stoneflies are active on the water surface.
They skitter and dance, crawl and flutter about the river. Salmon flies like big chinook helicopters beating the air so loud against their heavy bodies you can hear them coming before they get stuck in your beard. Skwallas slow and sleepy as they battle against the cold air, or Golden’s that flutter and cause commotion on the surface as they hatch in the current like a mayfly instead of along the rocks like their cousins. This pattern is all about action. Just like the natural.
The body and legs of the fly ride low in the meniscus, even in faster or heavier current when floatant is added. I twitch this fly like crazy, fish that are keyed in on stoneflies are looking for bugs that move, and the strikes during this type of feeding can be intense and violent. It’s wicked fun. These legs that ride low in the water give the desired twitchy effect of a natural stonefly that is doing its thing. Sometimes they fall in and are tryi to get back to shores, other times a female is laying eggs on the surface. No matter what these bugs have action. So does this fly, even with subtle twitches.
So tie some up or order some, and throw some action on those big dry flies when the stones are hatching this season.
Hopper Hook or long shank Dry fly size 10 or bigger.
Hi Vis Poly Yarn for para post.
Dubbin of choice
Grizzly or Brown Hackle size matched to hook or one size larger.
Lay thread base and tie in rubber legs as tails and antenae.
Tie in your hi vis para post at the 1/3 mark back from the eye.
Dub the body up toward the para post but leave enough space to tie in wing.
Tie in 3 strands of Krystal flash V style so 6 strands lay out the back.
Tie in poly-yarn wing.
Stack some moose hair and tie in the wing. Trim the hair so that the para post is upright.
Tie in legs.
Add Glue then tie in hackle.
Dub and create a thorax, and rest the thread on the front side of the para post.
So you’ve been stuck indoors all winter long patiently waiting for the rivers to thaw and the trouts to wake up. Now that winter seems to be loosening its grip the waiting is almost unbearable. Some of the more “hardcore” anglers will venture out and net a few fish after spending 3 to 4 hours trudging through the snow and in the craptastic weather. Mostly we do it because we can’t torture ourselves by just thinking about tight lines anymore and have to put ourselves through some pretty miserable days just for that one moment with a trout…its not called “hardcore” for nothing I guess. I just call it being a fly angler and I am fortunate that my entire life these days is basically all about trout.
I love this transition period. When everyone starts thinking about fishing again. All the guides and shops start coming out of the woodwork, your old buddies that know you are a guide and have a boat call ya up and ask about how the river is. I’ve been watching this river for 10 years and after the drought and everything that hit us last year I am more stoked and anxious for this coming 2016 trout season than any other. The early season is a great time to fish. There aren’t many other anglers on the river, the bigger fish are easier to catch, there are only a few things that trout will actually eat, and only a few places they will be as the spring slowly approaches. Knowing how to fish in the early season separates the men from the boys, the ladies from the girls, the hogs from the dinks, if you will…or just means you can’t take it anymore and need to stick some trout.
Early Season techniques aren’t rocket science, just fishy science. Trout are still sleepy, and their feeding habits are directly related to the river water temperature. When water temps start rising above 40 degrees trout metabolism starts up and they require more food to function. They’ve been in hibernation basically for the winter, podded up with buddies eating only when they absolutely need it. Now that things are warming up they start needing more food and another thing starts to weigh on the trouts mind…sex. Spawning to be exact. Fish need a lot of protein in order to spawn, which means they need food. Lots of food. Soon fish will be gorging themselves on stoneflies, baitfish, small mayflies, and midges like crazy.
Flies. So lets talk about flies first, and start with Nymphs: The good ol’ Pats Stone is a good go too during this time of year. Its chunky, looks like a lot of bugs, and is slow and easy to eat. Boom, pattern one…get to tying. Midges, those damned little bastards that are typically so small you swear the trout is taking a breath and not eating. Nope, they are eating size 18 and smaller little midge worms so grab those zebra midge patterns in whatever color you want. I like red and black with a red glass bead and some silver wire. I have them in blue, purple, orange, white, pink, green, all the colors of the rainbow. But for reals…tie up some zebra midge patterns and use them as trailers or just by themselves. BWO’s or the Blue Wing Olive Mayfly has lots of nymphs patterns. I like the WD40, Psycho Baetis, that damned Tungsten Yeagar Hares Ear thing. All good for nymphing those little mayfly dudes.
The San Juan Wormy should always be around during the winter and runoff periods as well. We don’t like to talk about it, but some anglers go straight for the worm because it works, others hold onto it as a last resort when all the other “proper” patterns fail. I tend to play dirty, I throw what fish are gonna eat. That kind of settles nymphs for the early season. Eggs can also be used but that is playing real dirty and I will leave each angler to their own on that one.
For Dries, if you are wicked lucky you might get a trout that has decided to look up. They are typically eating one of two things during this time of year. A midge…or a Blue Wing Olive. If you see a fish surface and don’t see anything on the water to discern what it may be dining on…its a midge. I have size 18 to 22 little gnat patterns with wings. They don’t look like much but I catch the occasional eager eating trout on them. The BWO should be easy to identify, the little olive mayfly is delicate and hatches in droves typically. Fish pod up and feed actively when a hatch is happening. The little bugs also congregate in slow water and fish tend to target them there as most trout are just chilling in the deep part of the pool already. I use biot body emergers for the BWO mostly. They have a CDC post, with a light shuck, they work really well. The final dry is the Skwalla Stonefly. Skwallas happen on some western rivers and they are easy to see and trout hit them like they hit most stoneflies…you’ll know when its happening, and this is typically the official start of the spring trout season. I use bullet heads a lot, and some secret patterns that twitch really well. All size 10. Oh, and my go to Skwalla pattern is the Purple Chubby…they haven’t seen it since the summer, and they really want to eat it.
Techniques. Dries are easy, see a fish rise, cast at it, hope for the best. When fish start moving in to feed actively on dries look for slow seams, back eddies, and slow pools with foam. Fish look here and they don’t have to expel a bunch of energy fighting current. Water temps will typically be around 42-45 when BWO happen. Air temp becomes a factor as well, bugs don’t like to hatch if they can’t dry out their wings. Sunshine days, or overcast days with air temps above 40 will set the conditions for those little olive morsels in the early season. For Skwallas, you know the drill, close to the bank, some twitchy action…BOOM! Ya…like cold weather hopper fishing, paying close attention to areas where there is foliage overhanging the river, rip rap areas, large boulders, and rocky ledges. Stoneflies like to hang out there. So do fish.
I use long leaders, typically 12 feet, for mayfly and midge dry fly setups, with 5x flouro tippet or 6x mono. The flouro helps with super spooky fish in gin clear water like we have here in the upper yak. (SIDE NOTE: All the damn eagles are making the trouts super smart. Damn raptors.) For Skwalla set up, the standard 9 foot leader and 5x or 4x mono gets it done. I put a lot of action on the fly typically.
I recently started using another technique that is common in New Zealand and other areas for super spooky fish. I shorten up my leader to 7 feet, and go super light on tippet but use a good 15 inches of it. Typically flouo in 5x or smaller. Then I stalk up close to the fish, stay low, and make a short single shot cast, no false casting. I try and keep as much of the line and leader off the water as possible with a high stick. This makes it so there is little to no line indent in the water surface and little line shadow. Now, you may only get a shot or two at the trout, but this technique is for those really spooky fish that you come across. The ones that take 20 minutes to come back into the lane to feed after you make a shadow when making your first cast at them. Sneaky trouts. Its really awesome when it all clicks and you get to meet a really surprised and hangry trout.
Techniques for Nymphs. Well…go deep and work your way up. I work water like a steelheader. I pick my run, or my pool, or my line, and I start breaking it apart one cast at a time; covering every inch of it. Every INCH! Get after it. They are in there somewhere. I look for that slow to walking speed water, a good place to just hang out and chill. The trout have basically been doing the equivalent of “Netflix and Chill” all winter long. Just like me. So look for water that would represent a chill day on the couch for a trout. Ya…throw your nymphs through there. I start deep…clears out all the whitefish, and then I work my way up if I don’t hook up after dredging the bottom. I’m methodical with my nymph game. I will work a piece of water at 8 feet, 5 feet, 3 feet of depth, and work each 6-8 inch lane from top to bottom. Sometimes I just pick one piece of water and only work it for the day. Those trout can only be in a few places in the river, so find the best “trout couches” and interrupt their Netflix session with a hook in the mouth.
Streamers! I use them a lot more now. I like a nice 4-7 ips 10ft. sink tip and a piece of meat. I don’t throw little streamers very often. Maybe a size 6 Bugger or something, but everything else is Kelly Galloup ridiculous big. Mmmm, big fish eat big “little” fish. I target the water the same way as nymphing, just swing and strip style.
I don’t use a boat very often during the early season. It’s a lot of work when you only have about 4 good hours to fish. Besides, walk and wading all bundled up and in 36-45 degree water shaves fat in preparation for the coming guide season. It also gives me the chance to get back in touch with the river after the long winter away. I may only fish a handful of times during the actual winter if at all. Once the early season arrives its time to get back into trout mode and being able to set foot in the river a few times a week or every day of the week is how I reconnect.
Being able to stand against the current, casting in the snow, my breath clouding in front of me. My beard and mustache crisp with frost. The distinctive sound of a bald eagle’s chirp as it sits halfway up the barren cotton wood, head cocked to one side. That “shink” sound that the line makes as it travels through an iced over guide…an indicator bobs along slowly…it dips gently…tension…head shake…the pulse of a well wintered wild trout against the rod…oh ya…that’s what I need after a long winter.
So there’s some early season trout chasing pointers from this trout guide. Over the next three weeks the Yakima River will start to wake up along with other western rivers. These techniques should help you have more successful days. Of course, if you have any questions just ask. And I’ll do a business plug here:
I’m taking early season reservations now. Skwalla Spring Special: $275.00 for 1 or 2 anglers. 5+ hours of fishing, hot soup, and some trout chasing with my beardy face.
Get out there and chase some trout. I hope to see ya riverside this season.
Hello all, finally got this website back up and running.
Couple of things:
Early Season Reservations are now being taken. Get in on the Skwalla Spring Special.
Skwalla Spring Special:
$275.00 for one or two anglers.
Includes Hot Soup.
I will also be offering overnight trips. With the new take out below Greenbridge in the Upper River, I am going to offer 2 day 1 night floats for 2. Summer and Fall only. The trip includes 2 full days of fishing, 4 meals, plus snacks, flies, leader, tippet, and gear. I also give the option of sleeping in tents or in hammocks. Bring your own sleeping bag and pad. The floats will be 20 plus miles, through either the Upper River Canyon or the Lower River Canyon. Sleep under the stars, fish into the late evening, wake up early and be on river before everyone else, book two boats and have a party riverside!
Overnight Trips Start at: $750/ 2 anglers.
I will be able to offer multi boat trips this year. If you have a group that wants to float I have partnered with some awesome guides this season.
I sell flies all season long as well so if you fancy having some guide flies for yourself don’t hesitate to order.
The Season is almost here, and the trout are starting to wake up. I have gone out the last few days getting a feel for the river. Skwalla are starting to wake up, fish are fat and have wintered well, we have lots of snow so water should not be near as big an issue as it was last season. We may see Hoot Owl again but not until very late in the season and for a much shorter duration if at all.
I am also a TU Endorsed Guide and Business again this season and I am working heavily in the Teanaway River this season. To learn more about the local Yakima River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited and our conservation efforts don’t hesitate to ask!
I look forward to meeting new clients and fishing with old ones this season. Its going to be a great season, with lots of water, hungry trout, and some epic hatches. Get on the calendar quick, I will fill up this season! Thank you to everyone that supported me last season and thank you in advance for allowing me to share this awesome sport with you!